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Leslie's JournalReview - Leslie's Journal
by Allan Stratton
Firefly Books, 2000
Review by Su Terry
Dec 12th 2001 (Volume 5, Issue 50)

Leslie's Journal by Allan Stratton deserves all the awards that it has won, including "Best Books for Young Adults List" (American Library Association), "Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers 2001 List" (Young Adult Library Services), "Our Choice 2001 List" (Canadian Children's Book Center) and "Gems of 2000" (The Canadian Bookseller). It is a well-written novel that details the rapid degeneration of a teenage girl's relationship with the most desirable boy in school into sexual and physical abuse, and what happens when she finally decides to extricate herself from the relationship.

Leslie's Journal is set in a suburban community somewhere in the USA. Fifteen-year old Leslie Phillips is having difficulty adjusting to the many crises in her life. Her parents separated the previous Spring and her Mom is not coping well with the fact that her Dad has moved in with his much younger and prettier lover. Kate, her girlfriend since third grade, is being corralled into church activities with "more acceptable friends" by her mother. The administrators at her high school, sensitive to her home situation, seems to be going lightly on her about her frequent absences from class and school. In short, no one seems to notice that Leslie's world is crumbling, in fact, no one seems to notice Leslie at all! Is it any wonder that Leslie is acting out? Enter Jason McCready, a recent transfers from an exclusive prep school and senior "hunk" with a motorcycle that has all the girls swooning, except Leslie. It is Leslie, however, that Jason wants to date. Jason is rich and spoiled. He has an alcoholic mother and a lawyer father "with connections" for any trouble that Jason might stir up. Is it any wonder that Jason is exploring all his options and exercising his desires for sex, alcohol, drugs, and fast living? Afraid to lose Jason's love, Leslie lets him push her beyond what she feels is safe into ever increasing rough sex. How far will Leslie let Jason go to keep his affections?

Leslie's Journal is written in a journal format. Assigned to write a journal in English class with a promise of complete personal privacy for the writer, Leslie at first writes to shock her English teacher. As Leslie's relationship with Jason becomes more intense, and those whom she felt that she could trust fade or are pushed away by her, she finds that writing in her journal is her only mean for sorting out her feelings about what is happening to her.

Leslie's Journal is excellent. There is no doubt about its ability to keep readers hooked. Still, in my opinion, the novel has two minor drawbacks. First, Leslie's writing style is clearly more sophisticated than that of a fifteen year old. I am not convinced that even an adult would be able to write with such depth of understanding and insight about what is occurring in the writer's own life. Second, I personally did not like Leslie. She was verbally vicious and cornered the market on being obnoxious to her parents and teachers. She lies, steals, drinks, uses drugs, sneaks out, and…well, judge for yourself. She is begging for attention and is ultimately, becoming more out-of-control. She is a parent's worst nightmare and I pitied her mother trying to cope with her antics. (I would have ripped my hair out and then, would have grounded her for life or at least twenty-one when I could have legally kicked her out!) While I would not have wished what happened to her on anyone, I found it hard to feel great compassion for someone I found so disagreeable. It may be horrible to say, but she was lucky that she did not end up in greater trouble than she did. This is not to say that she is not realistic. I have met quite a few young people just like her. It is only to say as an adult, "I" did not like her. Young people, on the other hand, may have quite a different opinion about her.

Allan Stratton is both an actor and writer. Rexy!, his second play, won him a Chalmers Award, the Dora Mavor Moore Award, and the Canadian Authors' Association Award, all for best play. His Friends of a Feather was aired on the CBC. Papers won the 1986 Chalmers Award, Governor General's Award nomination, and the Dora Mavor Moore Award. His adaptation of Dracula was nominated for the Dora Mavor Moore Award. His Bag Babies was a finalist for the 1991 Toronto Book Award. His first novel, The Phoenix Lottery, won a Stephen Leacock Award of Merit and was nominated for the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humor, and the TORGI Award (C.N.I.B's Talking Book Award) and a play version of it opened in January 2001. Leslie's Journal is his first novel for teens. Stratton has a M.A. in Drama from the University of Toronto. He is the past Head of Drama for the Etobicoke School of the Arts and a former member of New York's Actors' Studio. He currently lives in Toronto with his partner, and a menagerie of pets.

Leslie's Journal by Allan Stratton is a fast paced novel guaranteed to hold teens readers' attention. While labeled for "Age 13+" many parents may be offended by the graphic language and description of teenage sex. I would highly recommend this book to both teen and young adult readers. I would also highly recommend that parents read this book and discover what can very easily happen to their sons and daughters.

© 2001 Suzanne Garrison-Terry

Suzanne Garrison-Terry
Education: B.A. in History from Sacred Heart University, M.L.S. in Library Science from Southern Connecticut State College, M.R.S. in Religious Studies/Pastoral Counseling from Fairfield University, and a M.Div. in Professional Ministry from New Brunswick Theological Seminary. She is currently completing a Certificate in Spirituality/Spiritual Direction from Sacred Heart University (July 2001). She is a Licensed Minister of the United Church of Christ and an Assistant Professor in Library Science at Dowling College, Long Island, NY.

Interests in Mental Health: I am interested in the interplay between psychology and spirituality. My current research focuses on the role of hormonal fluctuation during puberty, pregnancy, and peri-menopause as a stimuli for mystical experiences. Through the study of autobiographical accounts of the mystical experiences of "historically accepted" female Christian mystics and additional biographical information, I am analyzing the connection between the onset of mystical experiences and biological data/symptomology for the potential existence of hormonal fluctuation or irregularity. If this sounds like an unusual topic, nota bene how many medieval female mystics began having "vision" on or about the age of 40!


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